Southern comfort

A good offense is kind of like an overstuffed chair: The more you immerse yourself in it, the more comfortable you become.

At least, that's what sophomore quarterback B. J. Coleman is experiencing as he develops a feel for Tennessee's new pro-style attack this spring.

"Comfort comes from understanding the offense, and I really feel like I'm getting comfortable with it," he said. "I've got a long way to go. By no means am I where I need to be yet. At the same time, I feel very comfortable back there in the pocket."

Coleman looked pretty comfortable in the pocket on Friday. Facing mostly second-team defenders, he completed 11 of 16 passes for 151 yards and two touchdowns in the Vols' final tuneup scrimmage for Saturday's Orange & White Game.

"I felt great out there; I really did," he said. "I really trusted my five offensive linemen up front. I think the run game complements the pass game. With the way we're moving the football right now, I'm very pleased."

Tennessee's attempt to incorporate a West Coast offense failed miserably last fall. The Vols averaged just 17.3 points per game as they staggered to a 5-7 record. The quarterbacks took a lot of the blame, and Coleman believes they'll be the fall guys again this season if the new pro-style attack is similarly unproductive.

"I think the quarterback position in this offense is a key position," he said. "A lot of stuff gets put on the quarterback but that's what you want if you're a quarterback. If you want to be a big-time leader in this kind of offense and in this conference, the SEC, you've got to want that."

Whereas other offensive players need to know what they're doing on each play, the quarterback needs to know what EVERYONE is doing on each play. This makes his job considerably more complex.

"That takes extra study," Coleman said. "The quarterback's got to watch more film. He's got to put more time, effort and passion into this sport, so he can get out of it what he puts into it."

Tennessee ran the ball fairly well in Friday's scrimmage and threw the ball effectively. Coleman and first-team QB Jonathan Crompton (8 of 11, 91 yards) combined to complete 19 of 27 passes for 242 yards with zero interceptions. The glaring negative? Eight sacks, including seven of Crompton.

"I think we're on our way," Coleman said, "but we're not there yet. I was very pleased with the way we moved the football."

Tennessee's quarterbacks do not have the luxury of superior receivers. Most of the wideouts are not particularly big, particularly fast or particularly explosive. Still, Coleman believes the Vols have a good group.

"The receivers are doing an excellent job," he said. "Quintin Hancock, Denarius Moore, Gerald Jones, Tyler Maples and all of those guys are doing a great job protecting the football, emphasizing their routes, being where they're supposed to be and they're making plays.

"Right now that's exactly what we need."


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